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Hey there, it's the NPR Politics podcast. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress, I'm a smuggler. They cover the presidential campaign.


And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.


It is 604 p.m. on Wednesday, August 12th. And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris held their first joint event today in Delaware, where Biden talked about his history making running mate, the first non-white woman to run on a major party ticket.


And this morning, all across the nation. Little girls woke up, especially a little black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities. But today, today, just maybe they're seeing themselves for the first time in a new way. As the staff of president and vice president, clearly he was making a nod there to the history making elevation of Kamala Harris when he talked about brown and black girls.


Mara, did you get a sense of what other sort of big, broad themes this campaign is going to be pushing in the homestretch?


Well, to me, there were two things about today that made it different than other vice presidential announcements. First of was the history making nature of it.


As Kamala Harris herself said today, he takes his place in the ongoing story of America's march toward equality and justice as only as the only as the only who has served alongside the first black president and has chosen the first black woman as his running mate.


So she's cemented her place in the history books no matter what happens. But also, this is happening during a pandemic and a deep, deep recession. And I think that Harris and Biden, but particularly Harris, made it really clear that they plan to prosecute the case against Trump. And if the first job or the first, second and third job of the vice presidential candidate is to prosecute the case against the opposition, I think she made it pretty clear that she relishes that job.


Yeah, I mean, I was struck by how forceful her criticism was of the pandemic. And I see this, you know, having heard a number of Joe Biden speeches about covid-19 over the past couple of months, it's certainly been a high priority for him, for his campaign.


But I think there was just such specificity and detail with how she took this criticism on to the Trump administration, specifically about covid his refusal to get testing up and running, his flip flopping on social distancing and wearing masks, his delusional belief that he knows better than the experts. All of that is reason and the reason that an American dies of covid-19 every 80 seconds.


I just think that there was such a forceful kind of prosecutorial nature to what she was bringing on about specifically how the Trump administration has handled the pandemic today. That just felt like a sharp critique that frankly, what we've heard from from Joe Biden or his campaign to date, and she was a prosecutor, we have seen her in the Senate grilling administration officials.


Joe Biden said that was one of the reasons that he picked her. He was impressed by that.


So normally in a normal campaign year, announcing your vice president ahead of your convention would be part of this big splashy rollout where they would be campaigning across the country.


They'd be campaigning together. They'd be campaigning in separate places.


I mean, we're clearly entering the next phase of this campaign. But, Mara, do you have any sense of what this phase is going to look or sound like?


Well, it's certainly not going to look or sound like a typical campaign with cheering crowds. That was one of the strangest things about today's event, that there was no straight line without any applause.


Now, of course, they could have a laugh track or canned applause like they used to do in the old TV shows. Or you could do it like baseball games where they put they just put digital images of people.


Right. But I think that to me, I'm waiting to see if they decide to do a lot of events together. Even if the events are virtual, are they going to be seen side by side? Tim Kaine, who was the mostly forgettable vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, he suggested that they hold a lot of events together. And to me, that's what's interesting about this pick. Kamala Harris brings a lot of excitement to this ticket. She's more charismatic than Joe Biden.


She's a history making candidate. People are interested in her. She has a very compelling modern American story. And she has the potential to bring some pizzazz to the ticket that other vice presidents in the past have not done. I'm waiting to see if they do some events together. I thought today did communicate that they have good chemistry between them. Biden talked about how his campaigns are often a family affair. And now, as of today, all of them are honorary Bidens.


And Kamala Harris spent a lot of time in her remarks talking about Beau Biden, who she worked with when they were both attorneys general. And I thought that that was a real tribute to Biden himself.


Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves. He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, where did you get that, where this come from, he'd always talk about his dad.


So we'll see if that continues. All right. Let's take a quick break. And when we get back, we'll talk more about what the dynamics of the campaign will look like going forward.


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Yeah, you just in these like older investors being like, you know what the kids want? They want jeans.


You get a Tom Cruise movie and some stonewashed jeans. The downfall of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix.


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And Mara, Kamala Harris is a different kind of candidate for a lot of reasons. She's the first woman. She's the first non-white woman, but she's also a woman who has a very different personal life than we're used to seeing from women in high profile campaigns we haven't seen yet.


It's we're only in the honeymoon phase here. We got to give her a couple of days of celebration here, but we haven't seen yet. Oh, she has no children. So far. The Trump campaign has decided to go after her on ideology to say she's too far left, she's radical, and she's going to be pulling the strings.


You know, in controlling Joe Biden, I will say we've actually already begun to hear a little bit of the attack, specifically with some of the language around being a mom. You know, I will say, as Kamala Harris has pointed out multiple times of her own political career, that she is a step mom, that that Doug, her husband, has children from a previous marriage and that she considers herself. So she says they call her mom. You know, this is something my colleagues and I were swapping emails about earlier.


But the chairwoman, the RNC chairwoman, put out an email saying that Carmella's radical policies are untenable for women. And in this substance of the message that we saw from her multiple times, she referred to herself as a mom. And I thought it was really coded language, you know, talking about the pediatrician that she sends her kids to and herself being a mom, implying, you know, that that there was some sort of difference or differentiation between herself and Kamala Harris.


She also made a point to note her, the fact that she was a stepmother and that she had many nieces and nephews in her life in her speech today. And it really stuck in my ear is to that point where she seems almost to be preempting the possibility of this attack against her.


My family means everything to me, and I've had a lot of titles over my career and certainly vice president will be great, but mama will always be the one that means the most.


I mean, I also just wonder how relevant these attacks are. I mean, we've seen from President Trump there is a desire to to speak to the quote unquote, suburban housewives of America. But I mean, there is something a bit anachronistic about this idea of sort of a conventional mother, suburban or, you know, housewife model that that he and some folks within the Republican Party seem to think of what a woman ought to be.


Well, you know what's interesting about that, since we've never had a female president or vice president, what is the right way to be a female president or vice president? Are you supposed to have kids? Is it OK if you don't? We don't know where she's she's writing the script as she goes along.


And Biden today made clear that they know that the attacks are coming from the Trump campaign.


Donald Trump has already started his attacks. Calling commom a, quote, nasty. Whining about how she is, quote, mean to his appointees. It's no surprise because whining is what Donald Trump does best, better than any president in American history. Is anyone surprised Donald Trump has a problem with a strong women or strong women across the board?


Well, so far, the attacks from the Trump campaign have been pretty ideological, calling Kamala Harris a radical left wing candidate, the most left wing candidate, the most left wing senator. And they really haven't gone into a racial space yet. But we know that he's reserved certain adjectives for African-American women, for black women. NAFTA is one of them.


The one thing, Mara, though, is the president already did sort of use racist language in that attack. He didn't just call Kamala Harris nasty yesterday. He compared it to Elizabeth Warren and the nickname he gave her, saying she was probably nastier than even Pocahontas to Joe Biden, which is the derogatory term he's used for more.


Right, right, right. That's something to point out. But but but we know that the Donald Trump has already injected race into this campaign by saying to the, quote, suburban Housewives of America that he's going to save them from low income housing coming into their neighborhood, that Corey Booker, an African-American senator, will be in charge of if the Democrats win.


I mean, one thing I will say, though, is I do think that the Biden campaign and every woman who was even being remotely considered for this job, they were all very aware that this was going to happen. So one of the interesting nuggets in how the Biden campaign came to its decision is that every one of the, you know, potential, say, 20 plus names who were initially being considered met with the co-chairs of Biden's VP committee. And they were all asked, what do you think Trump's nickname will be for you?


I mean, to me, that was just sort of a remarkably fascinating question to have asked. I mean, and it gave me the sense that, you know, everybody knew and knows that this was going to happen. And it's just a matter of figuring out how you're going to be prepared for the attacks.


The possibility that Trump could use racial attacks against Biden and Harris, I think seems so risky to me because the times in which the president has seemed to most engage in racist or at least racist, friendly, racist adjacent behavior, you've seen it really fall back on him. I mean, there's a reason to me today that Joe Biden seemed to bring up the events that happened in Charlottesville. Right. Like they see that as a weak point for the president.


And if Trump engages on that, I don't know if it gives him any benefit at all, especially right now where so many more Americans are thinking about race and racial justice as they make up their minds this November.


Right. We'll see if he thinks it's a way to motivate his base or if it's a place he shouldn't go.


Also on the race front, there was also maybe a bit of closure between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on display here today in which, you know, they famously had this moment during the primary debates in which she attacked his record on segregation and civil rights.


And today, USMA, she sort of paid tribute to who Joe Biden is on that issue.


I mean, you're right. So there was this moment where she said the civil rights struggle is nothing new to Joe Biden. And I thought that was really interesting language, given the fact that they did have this very public skirmish on the debate stage over issues of civil rights and busing. And, you know, look, I mean, I think there have been many instances where presidents and their running mates have often had public skirmishes in the past. But I think there were questions about, you know, just sort of whether or not there was any leftover tension from that moment.


And I think some of the rapport we saw from them today, but also her her sort of homage to his record around the civil rights movement to me, seemed to kind of close the loop on that issue for them.


All right. That's a wrap for today. We'll leave it there. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress. I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the presidential campaign.


And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent. And thank you for listening to the NPR Politics podcast.